N.W.T.'s Jay Gilday takes the stage in first indoor concert since pandemic

·4 min read
N.W.T.'s Jay Gilday takes the stage in first indoor concert since pandemic
Jay Gilday is gearing up for his first indoor live performance since the start of the pandemic.  (Submitted by Jay Gilday. - image credit)
Jay Gilday is gearing up for his first indoor live performance since the start of the pandemic. (Submitted by Jay Gilday. - image credit)

Jay and Leela Gilday and Andrea Bettger are playing a sold out show at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) in Yellowknife this Saturday.

Leela Gilday will play a 30 minute opening set, followed by a debut of two duets Leela and her brother, Jay, are currently writing.

The show centres on Jay's experiences backpacking across Canada, and on being a parent, brother, husband and son. They'll be backed up by fiddler Andrea Bettger.

Their performance is "a story of family, folk rock, [and] the choices we make in life and how we live with them," the performance centre's website reads.

"A vagabond turned mailman, Jay Gilday has searched for himself in the depths of folk, blues, traditional, rock and most recently soul music," the website states.

Gilday, who is Dene and Canadian-Irish, takes his experiences as a youth travelling across the country and weaves in the "daily roller-coaster" of work, family and performance.

Leela Gilday, born and raised in the N.W.T., writes about people and the land.

For people who weren't able to grab tickets, the performance will be broadcast for free Sunday on the NACC and Western Arctic Moving Pictures Facebook pages, as well as Northwestel channel 209 at 7:30 p.m.

WATCH | Jay Gilday performs Dream of Dreams on the shores of Yellowknife's Back Bay:

Gilday performed on CBC North's Trail's End in an outdoor concert near Yellowknife's Back Bay.

Jay Gilday wrote Look at the Moon, a song about stepping aside from politics, "not that I'm a politician or anything," he said.

"It takes up a lot of space in your mind and ... I just wanted to write something outside of that ... that would sort of soothe my spirit and anybody who listens to it," he said.

Gilday has been recording with Jesse James Gon, a Juno-nominated Tłı̨chǫ musician known for his performances as Digawolf.

Returning to the North

Gilday said it's an immense privilege to be able to return North and play to an audience during the pandemic.

This weekend marks his first live performance indoors since COVID-19 hit, and it has a capacity of 50 people.

"I wish everybody could be there. Connecting with people in person is something that we all know that everybody is missing it," he said. "I'm feeling very privileged that I have access to it. I am really proud of the Northwest Territories, for the way they've handled this."

Holding more events, and holding them safely will ensure greater trust to put on performances in the future, he said.

"The Northwest Territories has patience, if we have nothing else, and so if we can just keep on doing what we're doing, I think it's set a good example," he said.

Gilday speaks to Lawrence Nayally, host of CBC's Trail's End, on the shores of Yellowknife's Back Bay.
Gilday speaks to Lawrence Nayally, host of CBC's Trail's End, on the shores of Yellowknife's Back Bay.(Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

Gilday said coming back to Yellowknife was "one of the best choices" he's made for himself.

In Edmonton, he was delivering mail day-to-day and returned to the North to find greater opportunity, such as a residency space at NACC.

"All of a sudden, I had an office, and my kids were able to go to school, so I had the time during the day to actually sit down and do that hard work of reassessing what I'm supposed to be doing with myself and do some writing," he said.

Gilday played CBC a "comfort song" from his last album, just before the pandemic.

"I was really trying to soothe my soul, and to share that with others. I saw a lot of people having similar problems, as artists and just as people," he said.

"Living in a world where the rules are set up against you — it's not just an Indigenous problem, like the way the economy is set up — it's very hard for a lot of people," he said.

"I needed to write something that would lift up my own spirits and get me through the winter and it's called That's How it Goes."

During the show, Gilday and his fellow performers will read out messages to family and friends across the N.W.T. He says people can submit those messages ahead of the show.

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